Dario Argento, Director
Anchor Bay [DVD]
Forget the great Italian locations,
the flimsy story line, the bad dubbing, the tricky revelation of the
murderer, the only thing that matters in this film is the amazing
art direction and the spontaneous shriek-inducing ending. Not to reveal
too much, but it is sufficient to say, you will believe a human head
can pop right open with enough pressure.
This is a must have for Argento fans, and a must
see for anyone who likes cheesy Italian horror sculpted by the hands
of a master. David Hemmings stars as an American musician who witnesses
a horrible murder, while standing in an amazing plaza of course, and
becomes the unwitting prey of the killer. While he rambles around
town trying to figure out who the killer is, we meet cross dressers,
drunks and a ditzy journalist whom our hero falls for.
The film opens with an amazing shot through the
reddest drapes you'll ever see (thank you digital color) and the hokiest
psychic scene in the history of the story device. The killer is in
the audience and while the psychic can tell what he did as a child,
she is helpless to know where he is in the audience. An only partially
psychic, psychic is a staple of any good murder mystery. There are
also some amazing camera shots; pans and zooms that seem amazing in
light of the equipment that Argento had available at the time.
There are several noteworthy scenes scattered throughout
this film. All well worth seeing. And many of the sleuthful devices
used by our hero were probably pretty cutting edge at the time. Now
the film is enjoyable as amusing history, and there is nothing wrong
with that. The scene in the bathroom is especially fun.
The one strange thing about the film is that some
of the English dubs were lost along with some of the original Italian
scenes. The result is that both soundtracks were used to make a complete
film and you never know what language the characters are going to
speak. One character may ask in question in poorly dubbed English
and the other will answer in Italian. If your friends are drinking
or anything else you might want to tell them about this before you
throw DEEP RED on the disc player...or not. Extras include the Italian
and English trailers, a featurette on the 25th Anniversary of the
film, which is fun, and talent bios.
John Carpenter, Director
Anchor Bay [DVD]
This is the grand daddy of
80's slasher films, and let me tell you, a lot was lost in the translation
by the copycats. I hadn't watched this film in a few years, well a
lot of years, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. The story
is standard horror fare, but Carpenter manages to make it fresh. Whether
it was because of his cinematographer (Dean Cundey, who went on to
shoot JURASSIC PARK and APOLLO 13), direction, music or cast choices
is irrelevant. Somehow everything came together just right. Jamie
Lee Curtis plays Laurie, a girl in a small town who, unbeknownst to
her or anyone else except the bogeyman, has a dark past. Donald Pleasence
plays the psychiatrist who can shed light on the past and save the
future. The darkness is the hulking masked figure of Michael Myers,
who killed his sister with a carving knife after witnessing her having
sex. This is the film that set the standard rules, but unlike it's
poor relations, this one made you think twice about having sex while
One thing leads to another, people die and Jamie
Lee is left alone to fend off the bogeyman and protect the children.
There are scenes with sharp knives in this film that made me curl
up into a ball making sure that all of my limbs and fingers were safely
tucked away. This is scary good fun, but underneath it all, like all
good campfire stories, is the air of possibility. Does the bogeyman
exist? Are those bumps in the night just the wind, or something more
sinister? We never see the face of the killer, it is hidden beneath
an expressionless mask making Michael Myers the everyman of boogey.
This is also a great looking DVD. Remastered into
THX and transferred from a new interpositive (that's good boys and
girls) the picture is fabulous. The extras include Widescrean (of
course darling); original trailers; tv & radio spots; talent bios;
behind the scenes stills and a featurette "Halloween Unmasked 2000".
As a bonus the cover is 3D shot of the original poster. This is a
fabulous DVD for the horror fan. Highly Recommended.
Fortunately, he and Tyler Durden discover that fighting
works even better to relieve the anomie; and a group grows up around
them as men rush to this successful means of feeling alive. When Tyler
takes Fight Club to another level, there are scenes of hilarious black
humor involving the mindless threat of his Project Mayhem disciples.
Some of the cinematic triumphs of this movie are only split-seconds
long. There are fight scenes with the power and passion of a Michelangelo.
Director David Fincher does not ask us to admire these, he simply
uses them to build the mood and moves on. I can't say enough for his
The art direction is one of the many elements that
deserved awards consideration: from the scene-setting, to the inner-structure
graphics, to the final apocalyptic view that still leapt into my memory
with little provocation 6 months later. There is no psychological
validity to this movie, speaking scientifically, but hey! Suspend
your disbelief & enjoy. If this still bothers you, read the book,
which is a medium better suited to the psychological part of the material.
The book also gave me an enjoyable evening.
Oh the places you'll go.
In the 60's and 70's psychidellia was so popular that the Osmonds
owned the company that owned Sid & Marty Krofft. Hence HR PUFNSTUF
(1969-73), one of the most colorful, mind-altering kids shows on TV
was an Osmond production. I haven't seen an episode of PUFNSTUF in
at least 20 years and I must say that it's pretty cool. I know Rhino
says that this is a re release fo the kids, but come on, who's more
childlike than a bunch of stoned gen-Xers? This DVD contains the first
four episodes of the series and special features including a sing-a-long
to the HR PUFNSTUF song as well as the theme to another Krofft favorite,
SIGMUND THE SEAMONSTER. Also included is a strange Q & A with Jack
Wild. The questions are printed, subtitle style over a picture of
Wild which keeps changing expression as his voiceover answers the
question, which is, overall, interesting if not a bit creepy.
Hopefully you all remember the story of Jack (Jack
Wild, the English kid who played the Artful Dodger in OLIVER TWIST)
who innocently climbs into a magic boat which is owned by Witchiepoo.
Jack has Freddy, the Magic Flute, and Whitchiepoo covets Freddy, so
Jack goes on a one way trip to a Living Island where he is rescued
by Pufnstuf, the Mayor of the Island, and his band of merry puppet
friends. Each week Puf & friends would think up plans to get Jack
back home and Witchiepoo and friends would think up ways to relieve
Jack of Freddy. Comedy and wild color schemes ensue.
The stories are contrived, and only the simplest
of morals are learned. What I did notice, though, it that this was
low stress, fun viewing. I recently saw two children's films, DINOSAUR
and TITAN, AE, and I noticed that I was a little tense about the raptors
that threatened the little dinosaurs and whether or not the humans
would survive, but in HR Pufnstuf I just watched and laughed or was
amazed. Not once did I worry that Jack would be eaten or become extinct.
This was a plus for me as an adult and I can only imagine that kids
might like a break from fears of world annihilation. Overall it was
a dandy blast from the past, and it gave me one or two new ideas for
|Reviews continued in the next column
George A. Romero, Director
Anchor Bay [DVD]
While I pride myself on being
a horror movie geek, every once in a while I run across something
I've never heard of and am like a kid who has found a new type of
candy. I am also hesitant when great "lost classics" from famous horror
directors start showing up, and have come to think of "lost classic"
as public relations speak for "student film." This is not the case
with George Romero's MARTIN. I actually think I liked this better
than NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. There are the same themes of alienation
and mob mentality, but unlike the group in danger theme of DEAD, MARTIN
concentrates on one lost soul.
The opening scene is riveting. Martin, a handsome
young man, is aboard a train and sees an equally attractive girl.
He stalks her to her room and injects her with something. What is
it? They struggle and something happens to make us ask more questions
about this handsome young man. Is he a vampire, a lunatic, a serial
killer? This is a movie about questions and appearances, and for the
most part Romero allows us to live in ignorance and doubt. Martin
both believes he is a vampire and denies it. His grandfather, who
he has come to live with, is sure Martin is a 75 year old vampire
that must be watched carefully. Others see him as an annoying young
man, a sexual conquest or a celebrity.
Shot in 1977, the film predicts the rise of the
media frenzy. Martin becomes a regular to a call in radio show where
the DJ dubbs him The Count. He recounts his troubled life, discounts
vampire lore, and talks about his sex life. The Count becomes very
popular and at the end when he stops calling in everyone calls in
with their own opinion.
There is also some marvelous direction and camera
work in the film. The shots of Martin feeding are almost innocent
looking. This is partially due to the child like face and manner of
John Amplas who plays Martin, but also due to Romero's direction.
Romero shows us Martin hiding behind a tree, stalking a new victim,
the soft sunlight falling lace-like on Martin's hair and we are taken
in as all adults are by children. There is not a lot of gore in the
film by 90's standards, but the conflict scenes are tense and engaging
in a way that pure splatter can never be. There is also a scene towards
the end where Martin taunts his grandfather at night in the back yard
by the swing set dressed up like Dracula that is so well done that
MARTIN crosses over from cult film into art film.
The ending, much like the ending in NIGHT OF THE
LIVING DEAD, is a shock and yet expected. For American audiences trained
to expect the happy ending, most cult films are a shock, but isn't
that why we love them. They challenge our beliefs and storm our comfort
zones with metaphors and images we suspect exist, but spend most of
our time denying. Romero's MARTIN is one such storm trooper and should
not be missed. Extras include running commentary by Romero, Amplas
and Tom Savini (Romero's makeup artist, and "Arthur" in the movie)
that is really fun. It's like listening to family talking about the
trials and tribulations of raising children. Of course in this case
the children are celluloid and may or may not have fangs.
MY FAVORITE MARTIAN
I am helpless to stop myself
from watching retro TV. There is something comforting about the
old shows, shows before AIDS and automatic weapons. MY FAVORITE
MARTIAN (1963-66) is one such show. I haven't watched but a few,
commercial interrupted, episodes of it on cable in the past few
years. So when I got this DVD to review, I settled down in front
of the TV with a coke and some peanuts and didn't move for almost
two hours. For those born under a rock or after 1970, the show was
about a Martian (Ray Walston) who gets trapped on Earth and ends
up living with journalist Tim O'Hara (Bill Bixby) while trying to
repair his space ship and return to Mars. The rotating downstairs
neighbors cause trouble with their links to the police and the innocent
O'Hara is always causing trouble by misusing Uncle Martin's devices.
It is one of these devices that give the theme
to the 4 episodes on this particular DVD. Tim and Uncle Martin are
displaced in time in a two parter where they go back to 1849 and
are forced to travel across the old west to find the 1863 version
of the time machine and get back to their own time, one hundred
years in the future. Tim gets them in trouble by using a "counterfeit"
Roosevelt dime to buy steak dinners and the fun begins. There is
no real trauma here, we know they will return to their cute little
apartment with the frilly curtains (there is a weird theme of 2
sweater clad men living is such a clean apartment, but maybe that's
just me). In the next episode, Uncle Martin uses his time machine
to bring Leonardo DiVinci to current time to help him fix his space
ship. DiVinci (played to its hammy hilt by Michael Constantine)
becomes a bit too independent when he discovers that his "stolen"
painting, The Mona Lisa, is coming to town and Tim and Martin spend
the show trying to track him down and return him. In the last episode,
Tim uses the time machine for research and ruins the sale of Manhattan
to the Dutch, thus relieving the US of one state, don't worry Big
Apple fans, it all works our in the end.
These were fun, and while only real fans may want
to buy a copy, I would recommend at least renting MY FAVORITE MARTIAN
to enjoy with friends.